There are three things we cry for in life: things that are lost, things that are found, and things that are magnificent.
“Cara, Cara, come home,” I called as I stumbled along our street in Deep Cove, a densely forested and rainy region near Vancouver, British Columbia. I could hear my husband and two girls ahead and behind calling, “Cara, Cara, come home!”
My heart sank as we completed the final leg of our search grid with no sign of Cara. Along the way, we had plastered posters on every available telephone pole. Lost dog. A photo of Cara’s sweet face. A little fringe of partially cut tabs at the bottom with our phone number. Exhausted with worry, we stumbled home to wait for news of our beloved dog.
More than ten days had passed since Cara went missing. Huddled together on the sofa, the four of us tried to make sense of it.
Perhaps she had been hit by a car and crawled into the forest to die.
Or was killed by a coyote.
A wooly white Shih Tzu/Bichon cross, she indiscriminately greeted everyone with affection. How could that beautiful soul be lost forever?
To our astonishment, our vet called a few days later. “Cara has been reported found by the SPCA in Coquitlam,” she said.
How was this possible? Coquitlam is thirty-five kilometers from Deep Cove.
“We’re on our way!” I exclaimed. We were whooping with joy and getting ready to leave when the phone rang again. “There’s an update from the SPCA. They told us the owner had just been there,” our vet advised.
There was a moment of stunned silence. It wasn’t us. And if it wasn’t us, who was it?
Still later, the vet called a third time and gave us a name and possible location of the party who had claimed Cara. She suggested we call the police.
“Do you think we should?” I asked my husband. It seemed a bit extreme. We lacked experience with dognapping, so we somewhat hesitantly made the call to the local detachment.
The constable arrived that evening around 5:00 P.M. He was going off shift but said he would rescue our dog.
“Under no circumstance are you to go and try to get her yourselves,” he said. “It could be dangerous.”
My husband chafed, but we complied.
The TV was on, but no one was watching it when the doorbell rang at 11:00 P.M. My husband threw open the door. On the front porch, haloed by the streetlamp behind him, stood the constable. Clasped to his broad chest was our beautiful dog.
My heart surged with joy. Our daughters thundered down the stairs and collapsed on the hardwood floor in the front hall, racked by sobs of relief. We crowded around, anxious to caress Cara’s fur and reassure ourselves that her return was not a figment of our imagination.
The constable told us that he had found Cara chained to a large stake in the back yard of the dognapper’s house. The woman protested that she thought the dog was lost — that she had rescued her. Leaving, he advised her there would be a further investigation.
Some days later, the constable called with more details. The dognapper, who lived in Coquitlam, was the flag person on a construction crew working near our house.
Somehow, Cara had escaped from the dognapper’s clutches and, like Lassie, started her journey home. Evidently, she didn’t know that to reach us she would need to navigate many kilometers of unfamiliar streets, cross the Burrard Inlet over a busy six-lane bridge, and thereafter find her way to Deep Cove.
Possibly drawn by the scent of the thick stands of western hemlock and other coniferous species in the conservation area on the western edge of Coquitlam that might have reminded her of the trees in her own yard, Cara found herself on the network of paths that crisscross the nature park. There she encountered two elderly ladies walking their dogs. She greeted them affectionately and followed them all the way to their car.
The two humans she chanced upon were avid dog lovers. They noticed she was collarless and lacked dog tags but was healthy and well-groomed. With no owner in sight, they took her to the SPCA.
Evidently, the dognapper knew enough to check with the SPCA about a lost pet. What she didn’t know was that Cara had an identification number tattooed in her ear. (The number look-up system triggered the call from the SPCA to our vet.)
On providing an accurate description of Cara, the dognapper was told, as the shelter was full, that Cara had been taken home by the two women who found her. One of the women left her home address but in the SPCA parking lot, they had decided it made more sense for Cara to go home with the other woman.
Lacking this information and armed with the address on file, the dognapper set off to collect “her” lost dog.
The next few minutes were a testament to the power of a dog to inspire humans to greatness.
After the SPCA alerted the woman on file that the person coming for the dog was not the owner, she phoned her friend to hatch a plan. The dognapper had already been to her house and was on her way to her friend’s home to collect Cara. They had a chance to outwit the dognapper, but it would require nerves of steel.
“The SPCA told me I need to see your ID,” the second woman prevaricated to the pretend owner standing at her front door. She scanned it for details and then gave up Cara. The moment the door closed, she called the SPCA. In turn, we provided this information to the police.
A few weeks after Cara returned, the dognapper telephoned. I don’t know how she got our number, perhaps from our Lost Dog poster.
She told me she never saw any posters, and no one ever asked her crew about a lost dog. She had wanted a dog and Cara had seemed to like her and had jumped right into her car. She had paid $200 for a collar and leash.
When the constable called to provide the findings of the police investigation, he had asked, “Do you want to press charges?”
My husband and I deliberated. We felt blessed to have Cara back through such an unlikely sequence of events. There were so many dog lovers involved in our happy ending: the constable, our vet, the SPCA staff, the two ladies.
Cara would not ask for revenge. We did not press charges.
— Jan Pezarro —